Vol.3 No.27, 11 October 2003
South Africans beyond South Africa
Wayne Visser is a cofounder of SANE. Currently he is working on his PhD in England. He is co-author of two books:
1. with Clem Sunter: Beyond Reasonable Greed (with Clem Sunter, Human & Rousseau / Tafelberg, 2002, http://www.nb.co.za/HumanRousseau/hrCatalogueDisplay.asp?iItem=2573)
2. with Guy Lundy: South Africa: Reasons to Believe, Aardvark Press, 2003, http://www.aardvarkpress.co.za/reasons_to_believe.asp)
He will be in South Africa for a brief visit later this month. Here are some of his impressions of the role South Africa and South Africans are playing in the wider world.
Editor, SANE Views
Having been "overseas" for more than 6 months now, I have a fresh perspective on South Africa. These are my conclusions so far. If you resonate with these thoughts, feel free to pass on the email.
1. THE SOUTH AFRICAN IDENTITY IS STRONG
We have a distinctive culture which is obvious even to non-South Africans. Wherever I travel abroad, I recognise South Africans immediately. Most often, they are proudly displaying their heritage – wearing a bok jersey or waving our rainbow flag. Other times, it is the colourful sound of our unique accents which is unmistakable, or simply a work-hard play-hard attitude for which South Africans have developed a reputation. In a world cluttered with media noise and dominated by Western monoculture, South Africa’s unique identity is a precious competitive advantage, to be capitalised on rather than sneered at.
2. SOUTH AFRICANS ARE BECOMING GLOBAL CITIZENS
While the brain drain of skills leaving South Africa is lamentable, it is also a sign of a maturing nation. Every country has gone through a period of its citizens spreading out around the globe. The time has come, I believe, to stop accusing so-called ex-pats of being traitors. Event the concept of ex-South Africans should be dropped. People can be South African and proud no matter where they live or work or study. The fact of the matter is that many of these global citizens are doing South Africa proud by excelling in their given professions and new environs. Let us embrace them as family, friends, ambassadors and business partners.
3. SOUTH AFRICANS ARE NATURAL ENTREPRENEURS
There is something about coming from a country that has lived through so much change that seems to give South Africans a predisposition to successful entrepreneurship. Most of the South Africans I have met overseas have found a niche and are exploiting it, be it running a website business, managing a hotel, or leading a charity. South Africans at home who complain about the lack of jobs-on-a-platter with big corporates could take a leaf out of the book of their international compatriots. The resilience and self-belief that we have gained from our political transformation can be channelled into economic creativity.
4. SOUTH AFRICANS COMPETE WITH THE BEST
We have no cause to doubt our abilities on the world stage. When I go down to my local supermarket in Nottingham, I see a whole range of Nandos sauces on the shelves and the university café sells Appletiser. I read the latest book by bestselling travel author, Paul Theroux, and note how he sings the praises of Nadine Gordimer, whose books, together with Andre Brink’s, I can find in my tiny suburban public library. And recently I met an impressive South African woman who is apparently being groomed for the future leadership of one of the world’s largest multinationals. We have every reason to believe that we are a winning nation.
5. SOUTH AFRICA IS STILL A BEACON OF HOPE
So many people I speak to abroad are wishing for South Africa to succeed. They see the country as the catalyst for reform in African politics and the engine for the continent’s economic take-off. The King Report and NEPAD are seen as encouraging initiatives to improve governance. And the moral stature of our legendary leaders continues to inspire. On my professor’s bookshelf are several books on Mandela, and in an interview with a Scottish social commentator, he tells me how honoured and humbled he felt to have recently conducted a radio interview with Desmond Tutu. In sharp contrast to American and British politics, South Africa represents a new and better way.
© South African New Economics Network 2007. Page generated at 09:22; 22 September 2007